At a glance: Anti-depressant prescriptions to children

What’s the story? A University of London School of Pharmacy survey has revealed a dramatic 68 per cent rise in the prescribing of anti-depressants to UK children (up to 17 years old) from 2000 to 2002.

Wow. Is this replicated elsewhere?

Out of nine countries surveyed in Europe and the Americas, the UK has had the biggest rise.

Why?

There are a couple of factors. The UK was starting from a relatively low base, which helps explain the speed of the increase. But there is also growing awareness of the fact that children suffer from depression and other mental disorders.

The manufacturers of drugs for these conditions will be intrigued to hear it.

That’s certainly one way of looking at it. The suggestion is that prescribing products to children to stimulate or calm the brain is a global trend. But there has, of course, been recent public concern about such practices.

Do we hear the name Seroxat?

The MHRA has banned prescription of the GSK drug to adolescents (see Brand Watch, left) and there is enormous pressure on pharma companies to explain what they are doing to ensure the safety of their treatments. A lot of prescriptions to young people are for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

What should the pharma industry do?

The researchers have suggested that companies need to be more involved in producing studies on the effects of their drugs on children, since relatively few clinical trials have been carried out with this age group. Given ethical sensitivities, though, that’s not much of a surprise.

Did any countries see a decrease in prescriptions?

No, but Canada and Germany had the lowest increase – up 13 per cent.

Any other research?

A different study of the UK alone found prescriptions rose 70 per cent between 1992 and 2001. Four out of ten were for selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, such as Seroxat.

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